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Dewclaw Removal

By: PetPlace Staff

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Dewclaw removal is the surgical removal of the first digit, sometimes referred to as the thumb. This toe is located on the inside of the paws.

What Are the Indications for Dewclaw Removal?

Dewclaw removal is most often performed in puppies around 2-5 days of age to comply with specific breed standards or to prevent the loosely attached dewclaw from catching on furniture, carpet, etc. resulting in damage to the toe. Some pets have dewclaws only on the front feet and some have dewclaws on all four feet. Some have multiple dewclaws. Dewclaw removal may also be performed in older dogs if the toe becomes injured or damaged.

What Preoperative Tests Are Needed?

Preoperative tests depend in part on the age and general health of the animal as well as the cause for the dewclaw removal. Typically, the procedure is performed on young healthy puppies and few, if any, preoperative tests are performed. In older animals, a complete blood count, serum biochemical test, a urinalysis, and possibly an EKG may be performed prior to surgery.

What Type of Anesthesia is Needed?

Dewclaw removal is most often performed in puppies at 2 to 5 days of age. At this age, general anesthesia is not used, but in some instances, local anesthetic or sedation may be needed. If performed in older animals, sedation or general anesthesia is necessary. General anesthesia induces unconsciousness, complete control of pain and muscle relaxation. If general anesthesia is used, the pet receives a pre-anesthetic sedative-analgesic drug to help him relax, a brief intravenous anesthetic to allow placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe, and subsequently inhalation (gas) anesthesia in oxygen during the actual surgery.

How Is the Procedure Done?

The skin is scrubbed with surgical soap to disinfect the area. The dewclaw is often loosely connected to the paw, unlike other toes. This makes removal relatively simple. Using surgical scissors, the skin, bone and nail of the digit is quickly cut off. The skin is then sutured with absorbable or non-absorbable sutures. Some veterinarians use surgical adhesive. If non-absorbable suture is used, it will need to be removed in 5 to 7 days. In older pets, a bandage is placed over the incision site for 2 to 3 days.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

The procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes to perform in most cases, including the needed time for preparation.

What Are the Risks and Complications?

The overall risk of this surgery is very low. The major risks are those of bleeding (hemorrhage) and postoperative infection. Some complications can result in the need for additional surgery.

What Is the Typical Postoperative Care?

After dewclaw removal, the surgery site should be inspected daily for signs of redness, discharge, swelling or pain. Any signs of abnormalities should prompt a call to your veterinarian. Any bandage that is placed should be removed in 2 to 3 days. Sutures may need to be removed in 5 to 7 days if the procedure was performed in an older dog.

How Long Is the Hospital Stay?

The typical stay following dewclaw removal is 2 to 3 hours but will vary depending on the overall health of the pet and the underlying reason for the surgery. Most puppies have their dewclaws removed without anesthesia and are typically taken home shortly after the procedure.

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